Enhancing Health through User-Centered Design and Research-Driven Insights


Diaita is developing an innovative digital health app to prevent chronic illness. Users receive personalized diet and activity plans designed by expert dietitians based on their diet history and biochemical data. The app aims to help users achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle through gradual changes. A conversational agent provides 24/7 support and feedback using health promotion theories and behavior change techniques. This core technology enhances user motivation and compliance, offering personalized health management to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.

My Role in Diaita

As a UX Product Lead and Co-founder, I conducted 100+ user interviews, informed product market fit, prototype development, and feature prioritization, resulting in selection for the SkyDeck Accelerator Batch 15 and the National NSF I-Corps 2023 Winter Cohort.

UX Design Thinking Example: Prototyping, Ideation, and Affinity Mapping

Understanding the importance of iterative design thinking, I employ a rigorous design process, starting with low-fidelity (lo-fi) prototypes and progressing to high-fidelity (hi-fi) versions to develop its app. Initially, lo-fi prototypes, which are simple and often my hand-drawn sketches, are used to brainstorm and visualize basic concepts and user flows. These prototypes allow the team to quickly test and refine ideas with minimal investment of time and resources.

My team utilizes Figma to create high-fidelity prototypes. This allows us to design detailed, interactive prototypes that closely resemble the final product, facilitating thorough testing and user feedback.

I use ideation sessions to refine the results gathered from interview studies. During these sessions, I led our team to create affinity maps to categorize and organize the findings in an understandable way. Affinity mapping helps us identify patterns, group similar insights, and prioritize key themes, enabling us to focus on the most impactful areas for improvement and innovation. This structured approach ensures that our design process is driven by user feedback and data, leading to more effective and user-centered app development.

My team uses Jira to keep track of the software development process, ensuring that all tasks and progress are meticulously monitored and managed.

Qualitative UX Research Example: Semi-Strcuted Interview

Research Questions and Goals

The objective of this research is to identify customer pain points and needs better and explore product-market fit. A better understanding of customers’ motivations, preferences, and challenges can also inform product development, marketing, and other aspects of our business strategy.  We make the assumption that many people require dietary support but may not be able to afford the cost of seeing a professional dietitian. Additionally, we assume that various populations have different levels of trust in digital health support. Our goal is to understand the audience for digital health products and the potential commercial viability of Diaita by examining user needs. Given that digital health products may not be familiar to individuals, we aim to simplify the issue and comprehend the basic concepts. Our research questions center on individuals who are at risk for type two diabetes or are prediabetic:

  • How do individuals comprehend digital health?
  • How do individuals’ attitudes and actions toward digital health support differ based on their perceptions of it?


This research project utilized semi-structured interviews, where 15 participants were interviewed for approximately 25-30 minutes either over Zoom or in person, depending on their preference. The semi-structured interview is a qualitative research method that allows us to understand customers because it allows rich, detailed insights into the needs, behaviors, and pain points of our target audience. Unlike structured interviews, which rely on a predetermined set of closed-ended questions, semi-structured interviews provide more flexibility in the types of questions that can be asked, allowing interviewers to follow up on interesting points and probe deeper into specific areas of interest. The interview included 10 standard questions, with additional unstructured follow-up questions as needed. To standardize the interview process, all participants were asked the same set of standard questions.

Recruitment. The study recruited participants by means of online postings and screening surveys. The research comprised three phases. During the first phase, any individual residing in the United States and over 18 years of age was eligible to participate in the study. In the second phase, the primary focus was on individuals who met at least one of the target criteria. In the final phase, all participants were required to meet multiple criteria from our target categories. These categories were identified based on the risk factors for diabetes, which included a family history of diabetes, obesity or being overweight, a sedentary lifestyle, being over 45 years old, experiencing high stress, consuming alcohol, and using tobacco. Snowball sampling was utilized during the latter stage of the research to recruit additional participants. This involved initially identifying and interviewing a few individuals relevant to the study and then requesting them to suggest other suitable participants.

Key Research Findings

Definition of Health. It is worth noting that most participants in this study defined health in terms of physical and mental well-being. Specifically, they associated physical health with the ability to move freely, feel good about bodily sensations, and be active without limitations or restrictions. Mental health, on the other hand, was viewed as equally important as physical health by most participants, although some considered physical health to be of greater importance. None of the participants prioritized mental health over physical health. One participant in the study included spiritual health as another aspect of overall health. Notably, the findings on what it means to be healthy were consistent across the three phases of the study. 

The participants in this study come from different stages of life, with some being college students, some working professionals, and some returning to school as graduate students after years of working. While their lifestyles may differ, many of them share a common mindset when it comes to health – it is not their top priority at the moment. When asked about what it means to be healthy, most participants prioritized their occupation over their health. Many expressed that their busy lifestyle and demanding work schedules often take precedence over their health, leaving them with little time or energy to prioritize their physical and mental well-being. For instance, some participants stated that they have no time to exercise or prepare a healthy meal due to their work or school commitments. One participant stood out as an exception, placing health as a top priority. This individual had a history of chronic illness and expressed a deep concern for their health. They were diligent in managing their health and prioritizing healthy habits in their daily life. 

Diet and Physical Activity. To improve their overall health, many participants in the study recognize the importance of exercise but are often limited by other obligations in their daily lives. Despite this, most participants try to add some kind of exercise into their daily life, such as walking more often. Similarly, the study highlights the importance of establishing a healthy eating routine, as many participants believe it is essential for overall well-being. However, some participants described their eating habits as “going through the motions” and focusing solely on the nutritional benefits of food rather than enjoying the experience of eating. Taste was an important factor for a large portion of the participants when deciding what to eat, and eating well and tasty food was seen as contributing to their mental health. Financial barriers were a concern for one of the participants, who would rely on food banks like the Bear Pantry on the UC Berkeley campus. However, food provided at the food bank would determine what the participant can eat, often resulting in highly unbalanced diets from week to week. Participants with high-stress lifestyles often turned to quick and easy options like microwaveable or grab-and-go food due to time constraints.

According to the study, many participants have experimented with various diets at certain points in their lives, including intermittent fasting and the keto diet. Their primary motivation for trying these diets is to control or lose weight or to meet specific exercise goals. Regardless of the number of diabetes risk factors, participants from all three phases of the interview had more experience working with a health specialist focusing on exercise, such as a personal trainer. While some of these trainers provided diet suggestions, most of them focused only on advising workouts. One participant, however, had worked regularly with a dietitian due to health reasons related to an eating disorder. Participants reported that they learn about diet through various sources, including friends, family, and the Internet.

Digital Health. To elaborate on the topic of digital health, the study revealed that participants have different patterns of using these apps. The study found that many participants were familiar with digital health, especially exercise apps. However, most participants who had used a digital health app did not continue using it for an extended period. While some participants were able to achieve their goals and no longer needed the app, others experienced negative effects from their app usage. Specifically, some participants found the daily engagement with the app mentally exhausting, with certain apps requiring daily food intake logging, leading to increased stress and negative feelings about their bodies. 

When searching for digital health apps, most participants follow two patterns: they consider recommendations from friends and family or download one of the top choices based on recommendations from search engines. However, a few participants reported being recommended specific digital health platforms by their doctors. Participants have different approaches when it comes to pricing. Some claim they would never spend any money on digital health support, while others have a specific price in mind that they are willing to pay each month. A few participants compare digital health apps to existing monthly services they are already paying for, such as Netflix or Amazon accounts. Factors that influence the price they are willing to pay include whether the app has features that support their needs, such as connecting them with a real human versus being algorithm-based.

Managing Health. This section of the study focuses on participants who have one or more diabetes risk factors. The participants can be broadly categorized into two groups: those who are actively managing their health and those who are not concerned about their health. The latter group tends to be younger and believes that they will be more concerned about their health in the future, perhaps when they reach the age of 30 or 35. On the other hand, participants who are actively managing their health tend to have more than one diabetes risk factor. This group can be further subdivided into two categories. In the first category, some participants have a family history of illness, either related to diabetes or not. These participants tend to manage their health with their family members, making it a collective effort. For example, one participant and their family make a conscious effort to manage illness together, while another participant’s family has a medical background and closely monitors symptoms related to diabetes. In the second category, participants manage their health as a personal goal and activity unrelated to their family.


No significant differences in the definition of health were found between participants with or without diabetes risk factors, indicating that individuals hold similar views on what it means to be healthy. Despite this, participants prioritize their health differently based on their outlooks on life, with some placing a higher value on work or school commitments over their well-being. While digital health apps are becoming increasingly popular, they may not be effective for all users, and some may even experience negative effects from using them. The study suggests that developers and healthcare providers need to carefully consider the design and implementation of digital health apps to ensure that they are accessible, user-friendly, and do not cause additional stress or negative outcomes. Additionally, healthcare providers can play a crucial role in recommending specific digital health platforms to their patients, which may increase the likelihood of successful adoption and long-term use. 

In terms of diet and physical activities, the study findings implicated that there are various challenges and barriers that prevent people from eating healthily consistently, such as financial constraints and busy schedules. Taste and enjoyment of food also play a significant role in food choices, highlighting the importance of finding healthy and tasty meals. Additionally, the study reveals that some participants have turned to diets or sought help from professionals like dietitians or personal trainers to achieve specific goals. The study shows that age and family history can influence a person’s level of concern and effort in managing their health, especially if they have one or more diabetes risk factors. Younger participants may not prioritize health management as much as older participants, while those with a family history of illness tend to manage their health as a family effort. 


The study highlights the importance of understanding individuals’ perceptions and attitudes toward digital health. It emphasizes the need for continued research and development in the field to ensure that these technologies are effective and beneficial for all users. The study also suggests that individuals’ demands and priorities at different life stages can influence their approach to health management. Ultimately, the study underscores the significance of addressing practical and emotional factors that influence people’s eating habits to promote healthier and sustainable dietary practices. When designing interventions or programs aimed at promoting health management and preventing diabetes among individuals with risk factors, it is crucial to consider these factors to cater to individuals’ needs and perceptions towards digital health support.